An Analysis of Finite Volume, Finite Element, and Finite Difference Methods Using Some Concepts from Algebraic Topology
In this paper we apply the ideas of algebraic topology to the analysis of the finite volume and finite element methods, illuminating the similarity between the discretization strategies adopted by the two methods, in the light of a geometric interpretation proposed for the role played by the weighting functions in finite elements. We discuss the intrinsic discrete nature of some of the factors appearing in the field equations, underlining the exception represented by the constitutive term, the discretization of which is maintained as the key issue for numerical methods devoted to field problems. We propose a systematic technique to perform this task, present a rationale for the adoption of two dual discretization grids and point out some optimization opportunities in the combined selection of interpolation functions and cell geometry for the finite volume method. Finally, we suggest an explanation for the intrinsic limitations of the classical finite difference method in the construction of accurate high order formulas for field problems.